Remember when Reva Shayne of "Guiding Light" stripped in the downtown fountain and announced, "I baptize myself the slut of Springfield, scarlet woman, common tramp?" Or when Tad Martin on "All My Children" proclaimed to his wacky mother Opal, "I am swimming in one scary gene pool?" Or when GL's H.B. Lewis stoically told son Josh, "Love the lord, love the life he's given you and the rest will take care of itself?"
Pete Rich. Pete Rich. Pete Rich.
He was the Emmy-winning, soap-opera writer who scripted some of daytime drama's most memorable lines, often within the confines of his spectacular historic Greek Revival-style home nestled in the Litchfield Hills.
"It was a sad shack, grossly infested with everything you could imagine," says the high-energy Rich as he begins a tour of the three-story home in Falls Village that he purchased in 2001. "Everything you see now is me."
The onetime residence of the chief financial officer for the historic Ames Iron Works, the stately home is now a quintessential New England postcard-perfect estate.
Boasting exterior architectural details including clapboards, columns, cornices, architraves, balustrades and belvederes, the house is surrounded with a luxurious mix of sturdy stone walls; soothing, meandering paths; and carefully planned landscape that includes huge shade trees, gardens of hydrangeas, coneflowers, clematis and rhododendron. Adirondack chairs are positioned to overlook the Canaan hills, and a quaint, fenced-in kitchen garden filled with herbs, arugula and seasonal fruit bushes greet visitors as they drive up a tree-lined grand driveway into the property. An in-ground stone pool with a white trellised gazebo is an eye-catching outdoor focal point.
"My home is my imagination," says Rich, who has won six Emmys for scriptwriting for his work on soap operas. "I often work at home and I write drama so when I looked up I wanted to see nice, beauty for beauty's sake."
Rich is no longer writing for soap operas and is now working with partner and editor Matt Brenneis on two new TV projects. "I did not want to see mess or depressing or chaos," says Rich, who is also now doing commissioned decorating work as well. "I need the opposite of the insanity that I was writing."
There is nothing insane about Rich's home.
Charm And Distinction
Instead it reflects his Southern roots, roots steeped in the value of a comfortable place to live and entertain and the security that comes with surrounding yourself with the things that make you feel your best.
"The dining room is my favorite aesthetically," says Rich about the comfortably formal, pale-green dining room that is a mix of serious antiques and the second-hand and flea-market finds Rich proudly sleuths for whenever he has the chance. A tiered chandelier from a Hudson, N.Y., antique store and his prized 18th century hand carved Sheraton shield back chairs take center stage.
The living room with rich hardwood floors and a view of the gardens and patio is welcoming and carefully arranged. The formal mantel holds twin 18th century basalt jasperware Wedgewood urns containing the ashes of his late, beloved cats, Blanche and Stella.
In terms of comfort, his favorite space is a four-season porch with a wood stove, floor-to-ceiling paned windows, inviting upholstered couches and chairs including a fainting couch, and a black and white checker board painted floor.
The walls throughout the house are filled with a mix of collectible art, including a Hudson River School painting called "Dream of Arcadia" and design elements with no pedigree other than being lovingly near and dear to his heart.
"I spent many hours under it watching soap operas with her at her house," he explains about a crocheted throw made by his great aunt that is part of the décor. "I feel safe and loved by her to this day."
An aficionado of classics, new and traditional, Rich, who once wrote comedy for the late Bob Hope, is a devoted fan of neighbor, famed author and decorator Bunny Williams, whose mantra is "elegant comfort."
"A home is a symphony," enthuses Rich. "Rooms in the house are movements in the symphony and each has its own tone and colors."
And so he has approached his own home with its endearing mix of personal and artistic, including a two panel Federal mirror with Corinthian columns that hangs in his bedroom, his great grandmother's 19th century crème ware bowl and candle holders, an 1810 Hepplewhite desk in mahogany and satinwood and his grandmother's date book, showcased on an antique side table.
And that's just the inside of the house.
Exterior Treasures And Comfort
A new pool house, complete with a flat-screen television and stainless steel refrigerator is where his Emmys are displayed on a second-hand shop table opposite twin oversized white leather armchairs.
"They were just $110 each," says Rich, who has made scoring a bargain a favorite pastime.
Refurbished in the rear of the house is a barn where Mrs. Beakman (so named because of her crooked beak) and the rest of his resident chickens live in coop luxury. Rich is quick to offer guests the eggs of the day in clean egg cartons he keeps on the granite counters of his state-of-art kitchen where he likes to stock his noshing must-haves — champagne and pigs in a blanket.
Admitting there are days when he feels like he could be happy never leaving his house, Rich is known for throwing great parties and is a comedic master of "working the room."
A History Channel, "I Love Lucy" and "Housewives of New Jersey," buff, Rich says his home means more to him than simply a shelter made from a pile of wood and stone and stuff.
"It is everything I want to be as a person," the quick-witted Rich says seriously. "Inviting, gracious, warm, loving, inclusive and someone that people can come to for safety and comfort and protection. My grandmother had this kind of home and I remember the sense of security there.
"I think in some ways my home is the sum of my life's work. Without the soaps this would not all be possible and I sometimes forget that. Decorating my house was never about how much a stupid chandelier cost but about getting it right. Doing the best I could do at making a home people feel at home in."Copyright © 2015, CT Now